Ecuador travel: from smoking volcanoes to green jungles
Smoking volcanoes, lush green jungles, colonial cities and adventurous activities: Ecuador has it all. It may be the smallest country in South America, but it’s a treasure trove of diversity. The traditional native Indian culture is still very much alive and you’ll be able to discover colourful markets, old traditions and authentic hill tribes. Have some extra time and budget left? Then round off your trip on the Galapagos Islands, one of the most spectacular places in the world. It’ll make your Ecuador travel experience that much more special.
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An Ecuador travel experience
Quito & Otavalo
Start your Ecuador travel adventure in the colonial city of Quito. This city is on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites and for good reason. From the colonial houses to the small streets to the cozy public squares, you’ll find exploring this city more than worth it. From Quito, you can easily travel on to the town of Otavalo where you can immerse yourself in the native Indian culture in Ecuador. Make sure you visit on a Saturday if you want to experience Otavalo’s giant local market. More than simply for buying souvenirs, it’s a great place for people watching. You can also visit various the towns around Otavalo to see people’s daily lives and learn about their way of living and working.
Deep into the jungle
Do you want to explore the jungle during your Ecuador travel adventure? Then the Amazon awaits. You can travel to Tena and then take a canoe into the tropical jungle where you can stay overnight in a special ecolodge. From here, you can discover the most beautiful places of the rainforest, spot parrots and parakeets and maybe even the smallest monkey in the world, the titi monkey. There’s more to the Amazon than just nature. You’ll find that there’s also a lot of culture to experience. For example, you can meet the Kichwa community that lives in the Amazon. They are happy to show you how they live and what the jungle means for them.
After the city, it’s high time for some rest and nature, and you can find plenty of it during your Ecuador travel adventure. From Quito or Otavalo, you can drive through to the Andes and the volcanoes that lie in the mountain ranges. The Cotopaxi is the highest active volcano in Ecuador and you can climb up this magnificent snow-capped mountain. Take a visit to see the turquoise crater lake Quilotoa and stay in Baños, which lies at the foot of a volcano. In the surroundings of this city, you can go on horse riding tours, scenic walks and mountain bike trips. Baños is also known for its hot springs – a great way to relax after an active day!
Learning from locals
Also in other areas of Ecuador is it easy to interact with the locals. You can travel to the remote mountain village of Guamote, for example, and get to know the traditional way of life there. The inhabitants there mostly still live in clay huts and produce their own clothes made from lama wool. Here you can stay in a cozy guesthouse that has a unique mission. The income from this guesthouse goes to the Inti Sisa charity, which offers education to the people of Guamote.
Galapagos Islands: a magical world
If you want to round off your Ecuador travel adventure with a spectacular experience, then you should extend your trip with a stay on the Galapagos Islands. You can go on a cruise or island hop between several of the unique islands. Here you will discover birds with blue feet, giant tortoises, baby seals and marine iguanas. The underwater world is absolutely magnificent and the landscapes are out of this world. The animals you meet aren’t afraid of people and that makes the Galapagos Islands a magical world. One of the most beautiful trips you can go on! Our Ecuador travel specialist René would be happy to help you design your ideal trip.
Share your travel wishes with René and he will send you a tailor-made proposal
Know Before you Go
General Information and Insider Tips
Residents of the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand do not need a visa for travel to Ecuador of up to 90 days. For other countries, check visa requirements here.
Your passport must be valid for at least six months after departure from Ecuador. It is your own responsibility to ensure that you are in possession of valid and correct travel documentation.
Insider tip: You will also need your ticket for your return flight with you.
There are no particular requirements for Ecuador, but make sure all routine vaccinations are up to date (MMR, polio, tetanus, etc.). Hepatitis A and Typhoid are recommended. We recommend all vaccines be completed at least six weeks prior to travel.
The safety of our clients is of the utmost importance to us, and our local experts are always well-informed about the current situation in Ecuador. For up-to-date information about safety, security and travel warnings, please refer to the US State Department, UK Foreign Travel Advice, or your local government resource.
Sockets use the US-style two-pronged (Type A) or three-pronged (Type B) plugs. Electricity in remote ecolodges may not be reliable, so bring a flashlight/torch. You may also want to consider a portable USB charger for your electronics.
At Better Places Travel, you book your own international flights. Your travel expert will gladly advise you on the best option. Read here for more information and tips.
When to go
You can travel through Ecuador the whole year through, but each area has its own climate. With Ecuador’s mountains, the temperatures in a large part of the country sit much lower than what you’d typically find in a tropical climate. Even more so, because of this unique climate, you’ll find landscapes, plants and animals that you can’t find anywhere else.
Most of the rain falls between February and May. The eastern Amazon region has the highest rainfall. In the high Andes mountains, it can also snow and some parts are even continuously covered in snow. June to September are the driest months. Read more about the best time to travel here.
The national language is Spanish. Here are some useful words to learn:
Hello = Hola
Goodbye = Adios (formal) Chao/Ciao (informal)
Please = Por favor
Thank you = Gracias
Excuse Me = Perdón
Insider Tip: Spanish is spoken by around 93% of the population. Almost 7% of the total population converses only in Quichua, a language of the Quechua.
Ecuador is a country of great diversity also when it comes to culture. Its cultural mix is an amalgamation of various people, traditions and languages. There are influences from the Andes, the Ecuadorian Amazon and the coast. The arrival of the Spanish also brought with it its Catholic traditions, now ingrained in the national culture. Nearly two-thirds of the population is mestizo, a mix of indigenous and Spanish ancestry. Another quarter of Ecuadorians define themselves as indigenous.
Ecuador doesn’t have its own local currency and uses US dollars.
The exchange rate fluctuates, so make sure to check the exchange rate before you leave (if you don’t use US dollars). In larger cities, you can easily draw cash from ATMs.
- Restaurants – A 10% service charge may be added to your bill. If one isn’t included, leaving 3-5% is appreciated, but not obligatory.
- Cabs – It’s not customary to tip, but you can round up the change if you want.
- Hotels – Tip bellmen 0.50-1USD per bag, and housekeeping 2-3USD per day
Insider Tip: While bargaining is acceptable at open markets and in rural villages (up to 10% bargaining would be appropriate) it isn’t a practice in other locations and settings.
The country has diverse climate zones, so be aware of that when packing. Bring clothes for various kinds of weather. In the jungle it’s usually quite warm, but in the high-altitude Quito it can cool off quite a bit.
- Trail shoes or running shoes for trekking in the jungle
- Water shoes or sturdy sandals for walking and water sports
- Lightweight sweater or jacket for cool evenings
- Heavier jacket or fleece for higher elevations
- Light rain jacket or umbrella—even in the dry season it can rain
- Mosquito repellant
- Sunglasses and hat
- Daypack for trekking
- Binoculars for wildlife spotting
- Microfiber towel or sarong for beach-going
- Dry bags if taking electronics into the jungle/river raft
- Simple medical kit with over-the-counter drugs and first aid (including anti-diarrheal and stomach meds)
- Hand sanitizer or wet wipes
- All prescriptions
- Flashlight/torch for possible power outages
Insider Tip: A lightweight mesh bag is great for storing wet clothes and swimsuits until they dry.